Friday, 30 December 2016

Taipei Most Vegan City in Asia

Peta has come out with its "Most Vegan-Friendly Cities in Asia list, and Taipei is at the top." When I first arrived in Taiwan ten years ago there were NO vegan restaurants (and not many good vegetarian restaurants either), and it's been immensely rewarding to see so many new restaurants arrive on the scene, and transform Taipei from somewhere that a good meal started in the kitchen to one in which vegans are spoiled for choice, especially given how affordable food is here.
Ooh Cha Cha deservedly gets the first mention.

Taipei's place at the top features in today's Taipei Times (Jan 14th).

Finding great vegan food in Taipei (and most other Taiwanese cities) is certainly easy, both for residents and visitors alike, and it's wonderful to have so much choice: from Taipei Main Station it's a short walk or subway ride to reach Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese or Western foods, from restaurants spanning the continuim from from botique, fine-dining establishments (so much less expensive than restaurants in other veg capitals) to night markets, and everything in between. Taipei is a vegan foodie heaven.

While this list was for cities, it's also worth mentioning that with such universal respect for vegetarianism (and increasingly for veganism, as the vegan population continues to grow exponentially) Taiwan is arguably the most vegan-friendly country in Asia, if not in the world. Even convenience stores sell vegan items, and it's easy to find them thanks to the world's most comprehensive vegetarian food labelling system. 

Vegan quesadilla from Tofunia, one of Taipei's newest and best vegan establishments.  

However, I have a confession to make: I disagree with Peta's findings. Taiwan is the vegan heart of Asia, but when it comes to cities, Kyoto takes the macrobiotic cake and the shojin ryori (Buddhist Japanese vegan cuisine) as the vegan capital of Asia. Being vegan in Japan is incredibly difficult, with virtually no understanding of even vegetarianism among the population, and few vegan restaurants outside the main centres or even snack foods at convenience stores. I suspect that it didn't even occur to the researchers to consider Japan for this list, and it's not hard to see why. However I've noticed a trend over the years: with a few notable exceptions, particularly the Tokyo Loving Hut and Ain Soph, most new vegan restaurants I have seen arrive on the scene in Japan have either closed their doors or moved to Kyoto, where the never-ending stream of tourists keeps them in business.  While this is unfortunate for the rest of Japan, and I really wish some woulde move to other cities, this makes Kyoto, in my opinion, the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Asia. I have a list of some of the restaurants there on my Vegan Restaurants in Kyoto page. 

Vegan Heaven, Kyoto

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